by Melanie Bettinelli on May 22, 2013
John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”
Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent
Today we took a field trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Dom got a Living Social deal and we figured it was about time for our art loving Bella to visit the museum founded by her namesake.
Isabella Stewart was a New York heiress who married a Bostonian. They traveled extensively and she developed a taste for art, especially Renaissance Venetian art. When she inherited her father’s fortune she became a collector and after her husband died she built a gorgeous Italian style pallazzo on the Fenway to house her eclectic collection. The museum is rather a challenge for curators as Isabella’s will specified that the permanent collection cannot be substantially changed. The museum can neither add to or remove from the collection nor can they so much as move the objects and paintings around. In the Dutch room the empty frames of two stolen Rembrandts hang on the wall, stolen in 1990 in one of the most famous art heists in history.
I just love this museum. I love that it has so much personality, you can feel the presence of the woman whose vision it was. All the pieces, great and small that she collected. Here a bunch of vestments, there a collection of little glass bottles. Here a table set with golden cups and fine china, there a glass case full of lace. Chinese and Egyptian pieces, Greek and Roman, Medieval and Renaissance and Impressionist pieces jostle together with reliquaries, sketches, and furniture. There is a room full of tapestries with a gigantic fireplace, the intricately carved mantle is from France. A portrait of Mary Tudor, a self portrait of Rembrandt, a beautiful sedan chair, choir stalls, sarcophagi….
My favorite part of the museum is the central courtyard atrium. A fountain plays, orchids and hydrangeas bloom around a mosaic floor with a central medallion of Medusa’s head, the whole surrounded by beautiful cloisters filled with statues and objects d’arts. The glass roof is four stories above you and you feel like you are outside. I kept thinking: that’s is what I need in my house, a space where the kids can run and play in all weather but feel they are outside. Yes, I really wish I could live in the museum. I could get used to waking up in a room where I could look out on that courtyard full of flowers and green. It really is a little slice of heaven.
I wish I had photographs, but no cameras are allowed in the museum and no cell phone activity either. You’ll just have to click through and explore the museum’s site, which does let you browse their collections both by rooms and by genres and has a nice Explore feature as well.
Bella, Sophie, and Ben all loved it. Though as usual when going with children, we can’t stay very long. We arrived not long after the museum opened at 11, wandered over the first floor until 12. Then went out to have a picnic in the park across the street while watching the geese, squirrels, sparrows, and passing art students. The children amused themselves throwing sandwich crumbs and cheerios to the sparrows. At bedtime Bella told me that was her favorite part of the day. But she loved the art too. I know we will be back to this special place many times. (And as an Isabella she will get in free for life, though that doesn’t matter now as all children under 18 are free in accordance with the museum’s mission to teach art appreciation.)
After lunch we spent another hour or so wandering the second and third floors. Our exploration of the third floor was rather rushed since it was well past Anthony’s nap time and even Bella, Ben, and Sophie were fading. One rule of visiting museums with little people is to remember that you can’t see everything. You have to plan to give them enough to whet their appetites, trusting that some day you will return to drink more deeply. But it would take many days even for enthusiastic adults to begin to scratch the surface of this remarkable museum.
I did let each of the big kids get a print at the museum gift card since our Living Social deal included fifty dollars to spend there. Sophie got a beautiful picture of chrysanthemums, Bella got a portrait by John Singer Sargent of a woman holding a wine glass, Ben got a Spanish St Michael. I figure letting them each have a piece of art which is theirs is a great way of helping them to make connections, to feel that the art is theirs and the museum is theirs. Now I just need to go get some frames…. We also have some prints they got at Christmas and some I found on great sale last year. Once they are all framed the kids’ rooms are going to be little art galleries. How fun is that?
Oh and Lucia? How did she make out, you ask. She slept the whole time in the sling. Didn’t even wake up for lunch.
You can also read more about the museum and the famous theft at the museum’s Wikipedia page.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 26, 2013
This is what Adoration looks like. A dozen children, four moms, one grandmother, and an excellent priest who believes that children, yes even the youngest children, can get to know Jesus in this wonderful way. I think the oldest child here is 8. The youngest is Lucia, at 3 months, but the next youngest is a little lad who is only one month older.
We began with O Salutaris Hostia. The moms sang off of printed sheets, most of the kids just listened. But they were hearing it, soaking it in. Then Father gave a nice little talk to the kids, talking about Jesus, inviting them to listen to Him and to bring Him their thoughts and concerns. A short period of quiet and then the children talked about Jesus, explained what they had prayed about, if they wanted to. I had to take Lucy to the back to nurse her as she got quite fussy at this point.
Then a brief prayer, the prayer the little children were taught by an angel at Fatima:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.
Then the children prayed their petitions. There was a little boy who wanted to pray for soldiers and people killed in war, and people in hospitals. Sophie had a bunch. She wanted to pray for all the people who made up their own gods instead of worshiping Jesus. She also wanted to pray for people who couldn’t walk or use their feet and were in wheelchairs and in the hospital. And for people who had died who didn’t know Jesus. She’s never spoken up before, but today she was little miss chatty. Though she hasn’t yet learned not to interrupt.
I’d like to note that mine were the only children running around all the other children stayed nicely put on the rug. Anthony and Ben did actually kneel down once or twice, but mostly they were jumping off that bottom step, kicking the pews, and being boys.
Bella and Sophie both did the thing where they lay down on the floor and kick their feet. But then they both did a passable job of kneeling at the end. And at the very end both stood in line sweetly for a special benediction.
Adoration ended with praying the Divine Praises and singing the Tantum Ergo. There was another song in the middle that I can’t remember. Finally as Father carried the Host back to the tabernacle, we sang Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Sophie’s favorite. I love that the format has room for the beautiful Latin hymns, the sense of the sacred and profound mystery ad ritual, as well as the personal and intimate. No, these kids aren’t quite ready to make a quiet Holy Hour, but they get it. They know they have spent a special time with Jesus. It wasn’t watered down for them but it was made accessible to them.
It’s probably been at least six months since the last time we went. This time I was able to see a profound difference in Ben who was especially sweet today. In the past couple of weeks he’s seemed to have turned a corner and has got over whatever it was that he had against religion and has started sometimes kneeling in church and praying along at dinner and bedtime prayers and even making the sign of the cross sometimes and who was heard to say he wanted to go to Mass to see Jesus. At the end of Adoration he declared: I like to come and see Jesus. And he was very excited about the holy card of St Teresa that he received and the pretty flowers and loved making a cross.
We got there half an hour early, I was planning to let them run off some steam at the playground behind the church but the school kids were there and there were just too many of them. My timid children preferred to go right into the church. Where they proceeded to run up and down the aisles while I nursed Lucia. They said hi to their favorite saints and admired the stained glass.
After Adoration we did a little craft, making pipe cleaner crosses. Perfect fun. Then once the school kids had cleared off the playground, we did go out and run around. And had a picnic lunch on the fly, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, strawberries, apples, raisins, cheese. Gabriel pushed Bella on the tire swing.
Then when we got home, a mystery. A picture of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was leaning against the front step. No note or anything. Um. Ok.
And just for fun, Lucia in her car seat, happy as can be:
When Dom took Bella for a walk this morning he said it was delightful to see the world through her eyes. He saw a yard full of weeds, she said, those people are so lucky to have so many flowers. He saw a dilapidated house, she saw that it was painted a beautiful shade of blue. He saw ratty old silk flowers tossed by the wind, she saw a treasure to bring home to her sister and brothers.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 11, 2013
Anthony hit the jackpot this week with fun read alouds at the library. I generally let him pull two books off the shelf to check out. Sometimes they go back in the bag and stay there after a first reading. But these are so fun to read I grabbed them for his naptime today.
The first is a fun tale from Zaire. (Which I guess isn’t Zaire anymore but is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) It’s a fun little story about a civet cat named Bowane who is going to collect his bride in the village of Tondo, but along the way is too accommodating to the friends he asks to be his attendants and thus misses the girl. She gets tired of waiting for him (they wait years and years for a log to rot so Ulu the tortoise can get across it.) and marries a different cat. The scorn with which she chases Bowane away is delicious.
The story reads like an oral tale written down with all the repetition and funny animal sounds. It’s a book that has all four of my big kids giggling as I read—and sometimes Lucia catches the mood and giggles too.
What’s really fun about it is that each of the animals make a sound:
And so they went on—
Bowane walking, ika-o ika-o, ika-o;
Embenga flapping, bwa-wa, bwa-wa, bwa-wa;
Nguma slithering, swe-o, swe-o, swe-o;
And Ulu waddling, ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka—
The four of them traveling to Tondo.
(Don’t worry, there’s a pronunciation guide for all the Lonkundo words.)
It’s such a charming little tale with gorgeous pictures that really capture the personalities of the animals and it has a clever moral too. I’d definitely consider adding it to our library.
Anthony’s second pick is an illustration of a song that Bella used to be quite obsessed with. I first heard it back in my Irish pub haunting days in college when Celine and Marianne introduced me to Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers:
All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.
Listen to the bass, it’s the one on the bottom
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-do
The old cow just goes MOOOOO
Bella used to watch the Makem and Clancy video on You Tube over and over again. I think Dom even figured out how to download it and put it on an endless loop on my laptop. I didn’t realize what book Anthony had got till we got it home. It wouldn’t have caught my eye, being a bit too garish, but it’s just the thing that a two year old boy would grab. This book has such fun illustrations, big, bold, bright animals all hamming it up on a stage. It’s definitely a big hit with my whole crew. Now Bella and Sophie and Ben are wandering about the house singing along. And of course we’ve been watching the video again too:
by Melanie Bettinelli on March 04, 2013
Today my Sophia is five. She’s turning into quite the big girl, even if she is only half an inch taller than Ben and looks like she could be his twin though there are 16 months between them. She adores her big sister Bella and they are the best of friends, but Sophie is not always in Bella’s shadow. She has a mind of her own, a personality of her own.
She is fiercely devoted to Saint Therese. She loves Jesus.
She loves to sing. She makes up her own words to songs, to books. She has the heart of a poet and a great gift with words, a feeling for language, for rhythm and for rhyme. She coins neologisms that the whole family adopts.
She loves curry and enchiladas and doesn’t mind spicy foods.
She has the brightest smile, the sparkliest eyes. She has a cute dimple. She’s a ham, She loves being silly. She loves being the center of attention. But she’s also very shy among new people and strangers.
She got several books. A princess brides coloring book, a fairy coloring book, first words in French (because she’s lately expressed a strong interest in learning French) and the complete Brambly Hedge.
Grandma and Grandad sent a purple princess dress. (Pictures to come.) Sophie declared it the best birthday ever.
Also, Sophie was thrilled that Bella lost her first tooth on Sophie’s birthday. Far from feeling like Bella was stealing attention on her special day, Sophie was glad to have another cause for rejoicing.
At first Bella thought she had a rock in her mouth. Then Dom reminded her about the tooth, which has been loose for a very long time and so wiggly on Saturday that I predicted it would be out within two days. That won me a reputation as a prophet.
All in all, a very perfect sort of day.
by Melanie Bettinelli on February 28, 2013
1. “Mama, Mama! Look! Mama! Mama! Window. Window.”
Anthony pretends the chair back is a window.
2. “I aim to misbehave”
Lucia got this t-shirt from Grandma Pat, a diehard Browncoat.
3. Self portrait by Bella.
She also took one of Anthony:
They just can’t seem to remember that the rule is “Don’t Touch Mama’s Phone. Ever.”
4. In related news: Yesterday Anthony broke the new lamp in the living room. The glass shade shattered all over the living room carpet. Fortunately it missed Lucia in the swing. The one we just bought from Ikea two weeks ago. That kid is a force of nature.
5. This morning Bella was telling me about a game that she and Sophie play called “The Wiseman’s Ghost” which she says will help Sophie to learn the Gospel. I’m not sure what exactly it entails except tha tSophie pretends to be Jesus and Bella tells her what to say. When asked if there’s a ghost in it, Bella says no. “It’s a little funny,” she says. And something about how “ghost” sounded better than “crucified.” I’m still not sure where the wise man comes in.
She has a remarkable gift for coming up with great titles. I still fondly recall the story she told me about The Singer of Popcorn Park.
6. Today my three big kids all went outside to stomp in the puddles. Barefoot. It was 41 degrees out and there was snow on the ground. But I didn’t stop them because they were OUTSIDE.
7. When she saw me taking pictures, Sophie asked me to take a video of her.
She explains that they are pretending to be Egyptians. The mud is from the flooding Nile.
“I’m playing in the mud. And so. So. So. So. So. Everybody else is getting their feet dirty. Hee hee hee hee hee. And so… there still… the snow hasn’t melted I know that. They’re still walking in the snow. There’s still bits of grass in the snow. Even… In fact, in fact, in fact… [singing] (to Ben) Mom’s taking a video of us. All right? So you have to make noise. [Ben screams] Muddy, you’re all muddy, you’re all muddy… We’re being Egyptians. We’re playing Egyptian outside. The mud on our feet is the mud from the Nile.” [more screaming]
And then there was this:
I can’t decide if her extemporaneous poem here is more hip hop or beatnik. “Mud feet, mud feet, mud, mud I have mud feet. Truly it is true. I am not lying. Boo. Boo. Boo. Boo. Boo. Goo. Goo. Goo. I am not lying. Which I’m really saying that. What. No I just don’t want to sing. I’ll talk. All right. All right. Mitmittyatkasight. All right. Shhh. Baby’s sleeping. Shh. Someone else is sleeping. Someone. Someone. He is a king. Shh. Someone is sleeping. Shh. Someone is… Quiet. Shh. Guess who it is. Shh. Guess right now. I do not bow. Vow, vow, vow. Bow, bow, bow… I do not bow. Bow. Bow. I do not bow. Bow. Bow…. I do not bow. Bow. Bow. Bow. .... Are you still taking a video?”
8. I was going over their catechism with the girls when Anthony wandered in. I asked him, “Anthony, who made you?” Not expecting an answer really. But he did reply, “Jesus.” Well then.
For more quick takes visit Conversion Diary
by Melanie Bettinelli on February 11, 2013
I bought the embroidery hoops and felt squares in October. Finally broke them out today. Bella’s been bugging me about it for a while and I was sort of goaded by Melissa Wiley’s recent post of her six year old daughter sewing.
We really didn’t do a lot. I put their felt in the hoops and threaded their needles and tied the thread and then went crazy rethreading the needles and untangling snarls and trying to get them to be patient since all three of them seemed to need help at once. (We did this during Anthony’s nap while my dad was holding Lucia.) I think I might get some books and kits for the girls on their birthdays. Such as the ones Melissa Wiley was recommending the other day on her blog. (To which Dom says, “If Melissa Wiley jumped off a bridge…?” Yes. Yes. I would.)
Bella had obviously been paying attention to our Little House reading and how Mary is praised for her fine small stitches. She was trying to sew the smallest stitches she could. She sewed a very crooked cross and referred to it as her “embroidery” it was so cute.
Now I’m thinking that if Bella can be so inspired by reading about characters learning to sew, maybe what we need is a literary heroine learning how to read to inspire her to push past her difficulty in that vein. I’m afraid our Bob books worked for a couple of days and then we hit book #3 or 4 and we were right back to tears and gnashing of teeth. I’m trying to think. It can’t be a preachy book where the point of the story is supposed to be learning to read. But is there a good work of literature whose hero or heroine masters letters and basic reading? (Not that I’m trying to push her. I’m backing off because clearly lesson-y things aren’t working and anyway she spends hours a day with her nose stuck in a book. But I think adding a few carrots might help her to give herself a push so to speak.)
by Melanie Bettinelli on January 15, 2013
My family has always exchanged presents at Epiphany (Christmas giving was reserved for Santa). I really wanted to keep that beloved tradition, though I do it in a much more subdued way than my mom. So for each of the kids I got a little religious picture: Good Shepherd icons for Sophie and Ben, San Damiano crosses for Anthony and Lucia, and a Mary Magdalene icon for Bella (backordered so she actually unwrapped a coloring book with various images of Mary.) Because I was in the hospital on January 6, this year we opened our presents on this past Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. My mom more than made up for any scantiness on my part as she brought a plethora of presents not only from her and my dad but also from my sister and my brother Stephen. Bedtime was a little late what with all the present-opening excitement.
I didn’t get any pictures in the excitement. Oh well.
On Friday Bella made presents for everyone. On my way through the dining room I noticed her hastily covering her paper with her arms. She allowed that she was working on a present for me. Sometime later I heard them go into the office and then come out again. Bella rushed into my room with a roughly kite-shaped package formed out of green wrapping paper with lots of tape. It was labelled “MOMA”. As the day progressed she made presents for Dom, Sophie, Ben, and Anthony. Anthony insisted on opening his right away, a cute little picture of a dog, labelled “DOGY.” Dom’s picture was a portrait of him on Christmas morning sitting in the blue chair, getting his beer (Guinness) from Santa. Ben got a truck. Sophie, who also couldn’t wait and opened hers on Friday, got a princess (and immediately started crying because somehow it wasn’t the princess she wanted Bella to have drawn.) I have to take some pictures of Bella’s drawings and get them online.
Then on Monday morning we took down the tree since Dom was going in to work late. I was sad to see the tree go since I feel like I hardly got to celebrate Christmas this year with being sick and all. (Though I have to admit that Lucia is by far the best Christmas present I’ve ever received so I guess it rather balances out in the end.)
Speaking of which, my little Lucy-girl made her debut at Sunday’s mass. Father was talking about remembering our baptism days in his homily and borrowed my little miss to make a point about how small we were or something like that. (I confess I was a wee bit distracted during that part of the homily.) I was glad I’d put her in a dress. I almost just left her in a sleeper.
Here’s a closeup of Lucia in her dress. Isn’t she pretty in pink.
Anthony has lately taken to napping in my bed. I can’t resist putting Lucia down next to him after he’s fallen asleep. Seeing my two sleeping babies side by side makes me just melt.
Aren’t they just the sweetest?
I have taken pictures of Bella and Sophie holding Lucia, but I need to get them off my camera and I don’t have the card reader handy. Well, maybe next time.
Meanwhile, here’s a sweet picture of my middle children, Sophie and Ben, reading the Horton Hears a Who popup book. Aren’t they adorable too?
by Melanie Bettinelli on January 09, 2013
Today Lucia had her follow up visit with the pediatrician. She’s back up to her birth weight and the heart murmur they were keeping an eye on has closed. She is a perfectly healthy little girl and a very happy calm baby.
The visit was the first time all five kids have left the house together, a test for my mom and me in herding children and managing logistics. There were a couple of sticky moments but on the whole it went rather smoothly. Ben, now firmly settling into his role as middle child, did not want my mom to help him get ready. I had to do his coat and walk him to the car. But once I’d conceded and walked him through the process of getting into his car seat, he was amiable enough. We managed to squeeze everyone in, with my mom doing all the lifting because I’m not supposed to wrangle anything over ten pounds right now.
When we got to the doctor we managed to get everyone out and herded into the office. Ben and Sophie accompanied Lucia and I into the checkup while Bella and Anthony stayed with my mom in the waiting room. As usual the receptionist remarked on how well behaved they are, making me wonder who these poor parents are whose kids jump off of the furniture at the doctor’s office. The visit was quick and Anthony was not ready to leave the fun toys. I had to resort to bribery, promising him some chocolate when we got home. That was enough to get his coat on and get him out the door. When we got down to the lobby, though, he plopped himself on the floor in front of the door and began to howl. I had my mom herd everyone else out to the car while I tried to coax him. After a minute I resorted to a reminder about the chocolate bribe and he again became a cooperative toddler, taking my hand to walk to the car. He fell asleep in the car on the way home, it being well past his nap time. Unfortunately the pediatrician sees newborns after lunch, which works well for avoiding germy kids but not so well for toddlers who need naps.
So that was our big excitement, hopefully for the week. Now back to my regular schedule of staying in bed most of the day with a pile of books and my laptop and the baby. And getting up to refill my water bottle, get a snack, and make lunch for the kids. I am so grateful to my mother for cooking meals, doing laundry, changing diapers, reading books, wrangling toddlers, getting kids dressed, going to the store, and all the other bits and pieces of our busy life that I can’t manage right now. On the one hand this is rather a nice little vacation from reality—except when it’s about time to take my next dose of painkillers. On the other hand, one reason I’m hiding in my room is so that I don’t crumple under the load of guilt for all the things I think I should be doing. It’s really hard to sit back, put my feet up, and hand over the reigns to someone else. I am so very grateful that I do have help and so very frustrated that I need it. However, I do think I’m managing a bit more gracefully this time. It’s hard not to feel lazy when I’m spending the day in bed and not feeling particularly bad. But I know I need to rest and recuperate.
So now back to resting, cuddling with my sweet little Lucia, reading books with the bigger kids—and trying to keep them from jumping on us.
Today Bella came in with a pile of books for me to read. We’ve been neglecting her read alouds for the past few weeks. She put the books down on my bed and then headed for the door. I was perplexed and asked where she was going. “I need to get the bounces out,” she explained. So she jumped around in the other room until her bounces were gone. Then she came in for her story time. If only I could get Anthony to follow suit. But he can be very sweet about giving Lucia kisses and hugs.
So far all the kids love to sing to their baby sister. Silent Night seems to be the Official Baby Calming Song. Even Anthony sings his own version, a recognizable little snippet of tune and words that can be made out to be,
all is bright.” I’m not sure about all being calm but all is certainly very full of love.
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 24, 2012
Today we took a field trip to Gore Place, a Federal period mansion and home of Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore. The occasion for our trip was a special program they were offering for the month of October, which is archaeology month in Massachusetts. When someone shared a list of archaeology month activities to our local homeschooling group site, it grabbed my attention because Bella has been quite taken with her archaeology books (checked out from the library to coordinate with the introduction to Story of the World, which introduces the study of archaeology) and has even declared that she wants to be an archaeologist.
Many of the events were too far away and many more were only on Saturdays, which we’ve already set aside for our family farmer’s market expeditions; but Gore Place was only about half an hour away, and offered flexibility and a program that was open to children as young as Bella. A chance to observe a real life archaeological dig!
Visitors may observe an excavation and ask the archaeologists questions about how they do their work and what they are finding. The dig is part of the ongoing research by archaeologists from the Fiske Center at UMass Boston at this late 18th/early 19th century home of Massachusetts Governor and US Senator Christopher Gore and his wife Rebecca. Work this October and November will be on the site of the Gores’ 1806 greenhouse.
The dig looked just like the one in Bella’s book! And the archaeologist who we talked to was really quite wonderful. She was very good at explaining exactly what everything was, what everyone was doing. She asked the kids a lot of questions and listened to their answers. She tried to figure out what they already knew and then used that as a jumping off point to introduce them to new ideas and terms. She let the kids handle various artifacts they’d found: nails, bits of glass and brick and flower pots.
She showed us how they carefully record every finding and put them into labeled bags. She showed us the maps they make of the excavation site and demonstrated screening some dirt that had just been removed from the dig, letting Bella identify the bits she pulled from the screen. She explained that the procedures they follow for a 150 year old greenhouse in MA are the same as archaeologists would follow at a dig in Egypt for 2000 year old artifacts.
Of course that part of the day only took about twenty minutes or so. And after that the kids wanted to run around and play.
Facebook scored major points today. Last night when I made the last-minute decision to make this field trip I posted about it on Facebook. I was kind of hoping maybe other people I know in the area would be interested in going too. I was very surprised, though, when we pulled up to see my sister-in-law there with my nieces and nephews and two of her daughters’ friends as well. She homeschools too, but they live on the other side of Boston so we don’t see each other nearly often enough anymore. She thought a field trip sounded like a great idea and so packed up all nine kids in her van and came. This is one of the things I love about homeschooling: the way you can make last minute decisions, the way you can follow a passion or a momentary inspiration and make a discovery.
They did have to get back home to do their school work. And take care of the baby and toddlers. So after watching the kids climbing the tree and playing for a bit, she took off and I decided to take a walk around the estate, see what there was before we had a picnic lunch and then headed home ourselves.
We were thrilled to discover that the estate has a working farm with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and a guard llama as well as a small vegetable patch.
We also got an impromptu tour of the carriage house when I poked my head in the office to ask if we could use the bathroom. The woman in the office was heading over to the carriage house and said we cold use the bathroom there. We got to see a couple of old carriages and a sled as well as the horse stalls.
She was curious about how we’d heard about the place and when I told her it was on a homeschooling group site, she asked if there wasn’t a site she could post information to to push it to homeschoolers. I was most impressed at all the programs they had and how eager she was to help people find out about their programs. As we were leaving I noticed that the information kiosk at the parking lot actually had a QR code you could scan to get an audio tour of the property on your phone. Too bad I missed that. Would have been fun. Maybe we’ll come back for one of the Christmas teas. Or the nature walks or story times. Or for the sheep shearing festival in the spring. I think Gore place definitely needs to be one of the places we come back to.
It was a most successful outing.
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 22, 2012
Having pretty satisfactorily completed our Antarctic explorations—I don’t want to push it to the point that Bella gets bored; better to leave off when she’s still fascinated by penguins—I’ve decided we should move on to Australia. So I put a few books in our library queue, starting with an Australian author Bella already knows and loves.
How we found Alison Lester, I’m not sure. Somehow when Bella was very little and we first began going to our town library Lester’s books were in a section that Bella kept returning to again and again. Just the right height or next to the table she liked to sit at or something. The illustration style is very distinctive and charming and we’ve explored a variety of books from counting books to stories about the seasons and stories about babies. When I began to look for Australia themed picture books, Lester’s name came up on a list and I was excited to add a few of her books to our pile. A couple of them were nice stories but not peculiarly Australian in theme. The one that has been most useful in helping us all to get a sense of geography, though is Are We There Yet?
The story follows a little girl named Grace and her family—Mum, Dad and brothers, Luke and Billy—as they take a three-month vacation to drive around the continent. (I love that the parents pull the kids out of school for the entire winter term. Roam-schooling!) The family visits landmarks and sees sights, go to museums and zoos beaches and raft trips, stay with friends and family. Grace has her hat eaten by an elephant, learns to juggle, snorkels, sees whales, and penguins and dolphins. You get a real sense of the breadth and range of Australia and yet it doesn’t feel didactic because it’s chock full of amusing family vacation anecdotes. Every other page spread ends with little brother Billy asking the iconic road-trip question that is evidently as well-known in Australia as it is here in the US: “Are we there yet?” You can trace the family’s journey on the frequent maps—there’s a complete map on the front end paper and a smaller, map that shows the journey so far on every other spread, the ones that don’t have Billy asking his question.
It’s a grand adventure that Bella, Sophie and Ben have all requested numerous times since we brought it home. I think we’ve read it every night.
I’d like to go one step further and take the time to look up various places and animals and even words we don’t know. Find pictures, videos, etc and get multi-media interactive—as much for myself as for the kids. I’m learning so much! So far we have listened to whale song, which the book mentioned, and I looked up the word “sook” which evidently means something like “crybaby”.
Other Alison Lester books we have now are Magic Beach and Isabella’s Bed, both are also big hits.
One other picture book on Australia that we’ve enjoyed is Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under.
Because I’m finding myself intrigued by Australia as well, I got A Concise History of Australia for myself. I picked this one because it was what the library had. I’m rather enjoying it. It’s a relatively recent book. The author is very aware of postcolonial concerns, feminist concerns, etc and yet seems to be interested in presenting them as competing narratives. Not knowing anything about Australian history, I’m finding it a pretty readable introduction to get the broad sense of it. The author does throw out some Australian words that I don’t quite know the meaning of. It seems like I can’t get away from that sense of being not quite sure of what things mean. I’ve got a few more history books coming for myself. I’ll probably skim them unless they seem very compelling and to offer a great deal more insight.
So what picture books (or others) can you recommend for our continuing Australian adventure?